George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 21 May 1788]

Wednesday 21st. Thermometer at 72 in the Morning—78 at Noon And 70 at Night. Clouds with the Wind pretty fresh from So. W. in the Morning. Easterly afterwards with the Rain in the Afternoon.

Visited all the Plantations, and the Brick yard.

In the Neck. The Plows & harrows were preparing for, and putting in Buck Wheat & the other hands were planting the Early black eye pease.

At Muddy hole—all the hands except those with the Plows and harrows (at French’s) were in the New ground at the Mansion house.

At Dogue run—The Plows having crossed the grd. in No. 6, had returned to No. 7. The harrow was putting in Oats & Barley in the former. The other hands, after transplanting a row & half of Carrots between the Corn rows in No. 5, returned to the New grd. at the Mansn. Ho.

At French’s—Four plows were breaking up the West cut of No. 5 and two harrows were preparing for, & putting in Buck Wheat in the East cut. The other hands were planting Corn in No. 3.

At the Ferry. One harrow was preparing for, and putting in Buck Wheat—two plows were planting Corn—beginning on the South side. The other hands (yesterday afternoon and this Morning) were transplanting Carrots. A quarter part of one row [ ] end, next the sown Carrots, had a little part of the Tap root taken of. The next ¼ to this, had the top Cut off. The other two quarters were planted as they were taken out of the Bed—after doing this they went to the New ground.

In my Botanical garden, I transplanted two roots of the Scarcity plant—but they were so dry & appeared to be so perished, as to leave little hope of their ever vegetating. Also (in the same place) from a Box which came by the Philadelphia Packet I set out a number of cuttings of what I took to be the Lombardy Poplar. These had been so long in moss as to have white sprouts issuing from many of the buds at least two or three Inches long.

The Philadelphia packet boat, the sloop Charming Polly captained by John Ellwood (Elwood), Jr., sailed regularly between Alexandria and Philadelphia carrying freight and passengers. GW used Ellwood’s freight service for many years, and Ellwood often did GW the favor of dropping off his goods at the Mount Vernon dock, saving a trip into Alexandria. The Charming Polly apparently stopped at Mount Vernon today on her way upriver; she arrived at Alexandria the next day (Pa. Packet, 13 Mar. and 30 May 1788; GW to Charles Pettit, 2 Oct. 1787, and GW to Clement Biddle, 20 July 1788, DLC:GW).

lombardy poplar: Populus nigra italica. Reportedly introduced by William Hamilton in 1784, it soon became a very common ornamental tree (HEDRICK description begins U. P. Hedrick. A History of Horticulture in America to 1860. New York, 1950. description ends , 146). GW may have planted some of these trees as early as 1765. An entry for 1 Jan. 1765 notes the purchase from Bryan Allison of eight poplar trees for more than £2 sterling (LEDGER A description begins Manuscript Ledger Book 1, 1750-72, in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 68). Since the native poplar was abundant, such a price could only have been paid for an exotic such as the Lombardy poplar. GW used Lombardy poplars first along his walks and later had them planted in hedges on various parts of his farms to act as “live fences” (GW to Anthony Whitting, 18 Nov. 1792, DLC:GW).

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